The Odell “Subway,” Route 66, Odell, IL

Odell "Subway"

One of my favorite places on Historic Route 66 is the Odell “subway.”  This tunnel was built in 1937 underneath Hamilton Street in Odell, Ill.  In those early years of The Mother Road, the traffic was so heavy, is was nearly impossible to cross the street.  The situation was particularly hazardous since St. Paul’s Catholic Church and school was on one corner and school children needed to get from one side to the other.  The reason it’s one of my favorite places is because you can now stand in the middle of the street for quite a long time before seeing a car approach.  It is a stark reminder of how important Route 66 was as a national highway and the effect its decommissioning had on the small towns in which it passed through.

On my last trip through Odell, I made my usual stop at the Standard Oil Gas Station, a wonderfully restored service station on the edge of town.  Volunteers from the Village of Odell Tourism Office now man the station, which sells a variety of Route 66 souvenirs.  One of the best things about traveling Route 66 is talking to the people you meet along the road.  On this occasion, I struck up a conversation with Catherine, who was volunteering that day.  I was telling her why I loved the Odell subway.  It turns out that she used to be one of those school children who would take the tunnel in order to get to the other side of the street!  She told me that she didn’t like the tunnel; it scared her, so her brother would take her hand as they walked across the slats laid on the concrete bottom to keep their feet dry from rain that would flow into the tunnel from the entrances.

The tunnel was closed decades ago.  One entrance was completed sealed; a few steps and a handrail can be seen on the other side, along with a historical marker (seen on the left in the above photo).  Last visited October 2013

Location: St. Paul’s Catholic Church, 313 W. Hamilton St.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: